Microgravity environments offer significant advantages for some kinds of scientific research. But accessing microgravity can be difficult. Traditionally, government-supported projects have dominated the field. This may be changing, however. Various entrepreneurs are trying to lower the costs and times associated with accessing the microgravity environment. One of the entrepreneurs is Mark Kugel, the co-founder and COO of yuri, a company that helps scientists send experiments to microgravity environments. We spoke to Mark to learn more about yuri’s services and why he decided to start it.
What services does your company yuri offer?
yuri offers a full range of services related to working in the unique environment of microgravity. We take research experiments – mostly in life sciences – to the International Space Station, suborbital rockets, or parabolic flights. There are many reasons why scientists want to conduct research without gravity: higher-quality protein crystals grow in microgravity, and cell cultures grow more similarly to how tissue does in the human body. yuri offers an end-to-end service for scientists that lets them focus on research. yuri takes care of the rest. Our online “configurator” lets them easily configure a first experiment draft with our modular and reusable bioreactors. From there, they can launch their sample to the ISS within six months.
What niche do these services fill in the space sector?
The services for microgravity research today are still mainly government driven and therefore extremely complex, expensive, and time consuming. Before we founded yuri, we worked as space engineers at Airbus and conducted a number of ISS experiments funded and organized by space agencies. Such a mission typically takes years and costs around $1 million. With innovations such as reusability, launching on platforms beyond the ISS, and a seamless end-to-end service, we brought this down to six months and around $100,000.
What drove you to want to “democratize” access to microgravity?
We see tremendous potential in microgravity and strongly believe that it will have a strong impact on various disciplines, including drug research, material science, bio printing, and agriculture. However, current access is limited. Only a tiny fraction of researchers around the world can afford to conduct research in microgravity. We wanted to change this and, to that end, we founded yuri.